WEDNESDAY, May 31, 2017 -- More Americans with HIV are sticking with medications that turn a fatal disease into a manageable condition, a new study shows.
"This represents a lot of people who are not dying and not infecting others," said study corresponding author Ira Wilson, chair of Brown University's Health Services Policy and Practice Department, in Providence, R.I.
"These differences represent tremendous, very real benefit," he added in a university news release.
While there have been significant increases in how long HIV patients take their medications, many people still stop taking the drugs after a few years, the researchers cautioned.
In the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 43,600 Medicaid patients in 14 states from 2001 to 2010, and found the length of time patients kept taking antiretroviral medications increased more than 50 percent.
In 2001-2003, half of patients stopped taking HIV medications roughly 24 months after starting them, but that rose to 35.4 months by 2004-2006. More than half of the patients were still taking the medications by 2007-2010, the end of the study period, the researchers reported.
However, the study also found that women, blacks and people living in certain states (for example, Louisiana and Texas) remained more likely to discontinue therapy sooner than men, whites and people living in other states (Maryland and New Jersey, for example).
"Although it is improving, it is still not optimal. There is lots of room for further improvement. Still, many people discontinue therapy in a short period of time," said study author Bora Youn, a graduate student at Brown.
Reasons why HIV patients stop taking their medications include cost, side effects and stigma, according to the researchers.
The study was published recently in the journal AIDS.